Megadeth Press Articles


So Far, So Good... So Mega! :: Marty Friedman's Stepping Stone :: Clash of the Titans - Mighty Megadeth :: I'm a Rock Star, OK? :: The Big Four :: Rust Never Sleeps :: Good Times, Bad Times, Dave Times :: Clash of the Titans :: The Secrets of Hangar 18 :: Simply Symphonic :: Deth Metal! :: Love it to 'Deth! :: A Kinder, Gentler... Megadeth :: RIP Reader's Poll Winner - Best Album: Countdown to Extinction :: I Was Dead and They Brought Me Back! :: Godzilla vs. Megadeth :: Tour of Consequences :: Mustaine Mouths Off :: MD.45 - The Mustaine Side Project :: There's a Lot of Fire on This Album! :: Dethspotting :: Megadeth: Secret Mission :: At the Start It Was About Revenge :: Escaping Capitol Punishment to Reach Sanctuary :: Megadeth's Really Over!

A Kinder, Gentler... Megadeth

taken from Guitar for the Practicing Musician, September 1992
by Lee Sherman


There's no question that Megadeth have broken new sonic ground with their Countdown to Extinction album. Lyrically, songs like the title track, "Symphony of Destruction" and "Ashes in Your Mouth" preach the same old apocalyptic message, but musically, the band has learned that a few strategically placed notes can have more force than a flurry of guitar licks. It's the difference between napalm and Patriot missile.

Dave Mustaine would probably put a bullet in my head for comparing Megadeth to Metallica, but the band has reached a similar stage in its evolution. With the lineup solified (at last!), he can now concentrate on moving speed-metal beyond the narrow confines of frantic rhythms and frenzied, uncontrollable solos, while at the same time avoiding the clichés that have found their way into heavy metal guitar playing in general. With this album, Dave "Junior" Ellefson and Marty Friedman have played an increased role in defining the Megadeth sound, playing counterpoint to Mustaine's patented guitar style, a style that could be credited with launching a new era in heavy metal guitar. Mustaine has been credited with co-producing his records in the past, but even he admits that it was more of an ego-stroke than an actual contribution. This time, though, he worked side by side with Max Norman (who mixed the band's last effort, Rust in Peace), doing everything from mike placement to helping to construct solos for Friedman. Dave's approach to guitar, while still rhythmically intense, has gone through a transformation.

"I kind of tend to look at the guitar as being an animate object when it's held, and it's inanimate when it sits there," Mustaine contends. "Most guitar players these days are on this Yngwie kind of thing. Sure, the solo is fast and furious, but it's also mindless. Who can hum out a solo that is doing these endless scale runs? I think I still play aggressively, but I know that it's very important when you get to our level to evolve - there's more microscopes on us now. More people are being critical of what we do. So we have to make sure we are more serious and dedicated to ourselves, because you can get very caught up in playing music for the others."

Mustaine's gear has remained the same - his production line King V from Jackson, a VHT power amp, a Bogner preamp, Marshall 300 cabinets, and a Tubeworks preamp for his lead work - but a new component now plays a key role in his sound: the BBE 441, from Barkus Berry Electronics, a delay unit with parametric EQ. "My tone is very simple on this record," says Dave. "I don't want to puncture your eardrums; I want to spank your ears. I thought it couldn't sound that good because it only costs a couple of hundred dollars - it really blew my mind." On Countdown to Extinction, Megadeth has been able to bridge the gap between melody and aggression. "We paid intense attention to staying within the boundaries of what notes were legal in the scale based on the progression," according to Dave.

As a self-confessed melody-freak, Marty played a key role in this process, picking over every single note in every single solo. "I know what every note is going to sound like against any other note as far as harmony, counterpoint and melody go," he explains. "Every note that I play in every solo has been calculated and worked out almost to a fault. I believe in spontaneity in the creative stages, but you can't just stop there. When you get in there, you hone it down and make it something great, instead of just a moment in time. It becomes something that you are going to play live for the next ten years. You want your solos to be classic."

The roles are well-defined in Megadeth. Marty was actually hired for the band because of his strength as a soloist, and Dave Mustaine pretty much defines the state of the art in thrash guitar, but on this record the two worked closely together on almost all of the solos. "When you take direction, sometimes you can really open up your playing," says Friedman. "It's good to have people around who you can trust when you are creating solos. I like to look at myself as being a somewhat pliable guitarist. I have a very distinct guitar style - no matter what anyone brings up to me, it's going to sound like me just because of the way I phrase it."

For the first time on a Megadeth record, Dave "Junior" Ellefson's bass actually sounds like a bass. In the past, he doubled the rhythm guitar, a typical thrash ploy intended to provide more attack. This time out, he played a more traditional role, providing the glue between the rhythmic thrust of the drums and the melody of the guitars. Because of this, you can hear his playing much more distinctly than you could in the past. "It's the biggest contribution that I've been allowed to make," says Junior. "I've always had a problem being heard. I'd end up recording with a ton of top end just to try to cut through the guitars." Ellefson worked hard on the new album to come up with bass lines that played off what the others were doing. The end result is that his playing is not only cleaner, but more varied. "The song, 'Ashes in Your Mouth', has a lot of different breaks in it," he explains. "In the chorus, the drums are playing a double-time beat, the guitars are playing the main riff, the vocals are following the guitar part, and the bass is doing a real simple double-picking descending line. We're each playing different parts and it's really distinctive."

Another example of the way Megadeth has broken things up is the new album's "Psychotron." "Nick's kick drum and my bass line are syncopated to lock up with each other," says Junior. "We're laying down a groove and hitting on the opposite hit from what the rhythm guitars are doing."

The enhanced clarity in Megadeth's sound is due both to the way the songs were constructed and the way the album was recorded. "Everything is gelling now," says Mustaine. "It's not so much like there's hornets in your brain when you listen to a Megadeth record." The decision to record the album on a 48-track digital deck left the band completely naked in the studio. "There's no second guesses," says Marty. "Everything has to be perfect. It made us very conscious of what we were doing, and it was kind of stressful." There were also technical benefits to recording this way, like the random access that just isn't possible with analog recording. "Max was able to just window up the number of frames what were necessary to drop the part right in. It eliminated the human error of the engineer not being able to punch in and punch out of record mode immediately," says Junior.

Thrash groups used to revel in the raw sound of home-brewed demo tapes, but Megadeth has managed to incorporate more melody and a cleaner sound without losing the visceral impact the band is known for. The hard edges of digital recording somehow suit Megadeth. "I don't agree with the idea that mistakes give it attitude," says Junior. "You've got the resources to make it perfect, so why not do it?" According to Mustaine, the sound of the record owes much to new producer Max Norman. "For the most part, Mart y and Max were responsible for making things sonically correct. The timing was me."

The secret to the band's new sound was the marrying of a pure sound with effects. Unlike other bands, who clutter up their sound with signal processing, Megadeth relied primarily on mike placement and proper EQ. "If it's not broken, don't fix it," is Mustaine's way of putting it.

If there appears to be a new togetherness in Megadeth, you're right, there is. "It's now becoming more of a band," says Junior. "Dave had a real clear idea of what he wanted to do with Megadeth when he started. I don't think Dave has trusted the other members to have input because, frankly, he didn't have any idea of how long they were going to be around." Now that the lineup has settled on Dave, Junior, Marty and drummer Nick Menza, Megadeth is beginning to live up to the boasts of the band's founder. "This is what the other album would've been if we would've worked harder on it," explains Marty. "It's much more focused, and everything makes a lot more sense. We've grown up as a unit. We're using the best of all four personalities and coming in with all guns blazing."

One reason for their unity can be found in the band's decision a few years back to undergo group therapy in the truest sense of the term. Once a week, the four members of Megadeth, their manager and a counselor get together to air the differences. "It's an open forum where we talk about whatever's going on in our lives," says Marty. "It's family communication day. If we have a problem, we'll get it out in the open and solve it before it becomes a bigger problem. Bands think that just because you are friends, you have an open line of communication, but it has to go deeper than that." Part of the motivation is Megadeth's determination not to let personal problems destroy an explosive musical chemistry. The drug and alcohol binges that threatened to rip the band apart are now history. As is, hopefully, the instability of the group. "There's not that much crap coming out anymore," says Junior. "These days it's more about innovation, and each of us challenging ourselves to become better people so we can start forging ahead."

"People say that it's anti-breakup therapy," says Mustaine, "but it's not. It's just giving us tools to communicate with people outside of ourselves. We can either work together and rewrite history or we can let the egos get in the way. We started making it, we lost it all, and then we got it together. We're doing it totally backwards. It's challenging to get to know ourselves better. It's helped us to trust one another and learn that we can agree to disagree."

Mustaine is revered for his axe prowess, but this guitar god never even practices. Whether it's sky-diving, participating in group therapy or fatherhood, he believes it's more important to improve yourself as a person. Do that, and the musicianship will surely follow. "Outside of my life as a guitar player, I have a life," he says. "If I was stuck in the guitar world where all I did was sit in my room, smoke dope and play guitar, I wouldn't be able to make music that people can relate to. Some people sit on the sidelines, but I participate in life. I used just to exist, but now I live."

Megadeth remains, along with Metallica, Anthrax, Slayer and a precious few others, the voice of America's disaffected youth. No matter how far they advance on a musical level, this band will always stay true to the speed-metal ethos. "We're like the heavy metal marines," says Dave. "We get in there, we adapt and we improvise. A lot of times you have to get down in the trenches with everyone else. They say there's no atheists in a foxhole, and I truly believe that. The Indians used to put their ear to the ground. Unless you stay close to the street, you're not going to be able to say anything that people can relate to."


So Far, So Good... So Mega! :: Marty Friedman's Stepping Stone :: Clash of the Titans - Mighty Megadeth :: I'm a Rock Star, OK? :: The Big Four :: Rust Never Sleeps :: Good Times, Bad Times, Dave Times :: Clash of the Titans :: The Secrets of Hangar 18 :: Simply Symphonic :: Deth Metal! :: Love it to 'Deth! :: A Kinder, Gentler... Megadeth :: RIP Reader's Poll Winner - Best Album: Countdown to Extinction :: I Was Dead and They Brought Me Back! :: Godzilla vs. Megadeth :: Tour of Consequences :: Mustaine Mouths Off :: MD.45 - The Mustaine Side Project :: There's a Lot of Fire on This Album! :: Dethspotting :: Megadeth: Secret Mission :: At the Start It Was About Revenge :: Escaping Capitol Punishment to Reach Sanctuary :: Megadeth's Really Over!

The Realms of Deth
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